“Mohun’s ancestors were Bridport merchants in Tudor times, and represented that borough in four Parliaments. They were content to spell their name Moone till a series of fortunate marriages and land purchases inspired them to claim descent from the medieval Cornish lords.” HistoryofParliamentOnline
James Savage, in his 1830 “History of the Hundred of Carhampton” asserts the descent of the Bridport Mohuns from the John Mohun, (Lord of Dunster, who died circa 1330,) via John’s son Robert. Unfortunately he omits at least three of the connecting generations.
An on-line genealogy (reassuringly titled “Some Fabulous Pedigrees”) asserts descent from the same John Mohun, but via his son Reginald and the Mohuns of Boconnoc, omitting no generations. Both of these conjectured lines merge in John Mohun of Ottery St Mary, father of Richard of Bridport, father of Walter and Robert.
The Visitation of Dorset 1565 does not mention any armigerous Moones or Mohuns, mentioning only Walter Moone as a burgess of Bridport. Whether the Mohuns of Dunster or Boconnoc were ancestors of the Mohuns of Fleet let the gentle reader decide for himself.
In any case, it must be said that, in 1623, their claims were convincing enough that the heralds deputising for William Camden, Clarencieux King of Arms, confirmed their right to bear a variant of the ancient arms of Mohun.
The pedigree of the Mohuns shown in the record of the 1623 visitation of Dorset starts with “Rob’t Mohun of Baynton in com. Dorset.” Baynton does not seem to exist in Dorset, at least under that spelling. It is or was, presumably, the local pronunciation of Bothenhampton, Robert Mohun’s residence as given on his wife’s memorial.
“Moone’s father and brother both held offices at Bridport, where he was returned to the 1559 Parliament. … He bought Loders from the Earl of Arundel in 1560 and purchased Fleet about seven years later. … He became searcher of Poole on the death of his brother Walter in 1571. He died on 14 Nov. 1580, and was buried in West Fleet church.” HistoryofParliamentOnline2
Robert’s eldest son is also described in the visitation as “of Baynton.” It was Robert’s second son Maximilian (1) who is described as “Maximillion Mohun of ffleet in com. Dorset.” It is irresistible but probably useless to speculate on why Robert & Margaret should have chosen to live and die in the house they left to their second son.
The coat of arms (above) engraved on Margaret Mohun’s brass memorial on Fleet church shows her paternal arms of Hyde impaled with the Mohun arms.
“Or, a chevron between three lozenges azure, on a chief gules an eagle displayed of the first.” These arms of Hyde, as described in the 1623 visitation, imply a distant kinship with the Hyde branch that later produce Anne Hyde, mother of queens Mary II and Anne.
As already stated, the 1565 Visitation mentions Robert’s brother Walter without giving any indication that the Bridport Mohuns were entitled to a coat of arms, but they are certainly displaying arms in this memorial of 1603. The Mohun arms shown in Margaret’s memorial are a variation of the ancient arms of Mohun, having the addition of a bordure and a crescent.
The senior (Boconnoc) branch of the Mohun clan had long since replaced the ermine sleeve with a gold cross engrailed on a black field. The use of this coat makes descent via the Boconnoc branch of the family somewhat less likely.
Margaret’s son Maximilian (1) married in 1593. According to one account, his mother-in-law was born a Mohun of Ottery St Mary. If that is true then it is likely that her branch of the family would have preferred to believe that the Bridport Mohuns were close cousins, rather than parvenus, and would have given their support to the use of a variant of their family arms.
The arms shown on the brass commemorating Maximilian (1) have their odd feature. Hutchins apparently described them in his “History and Antiquities of Dorset” as ‘Mohun quartering Hyde and impaling Churchill, with a crescent.’ Certainly, for a son of Robert Mohun and Margaret Hyde, married to a Churchill, that is what one would expect. What one finds today, however, is Mohun quartering Hyde and Churchill with a crescent over all, as shown above. This is, in fact, the coat of arms described in the 1623 heralds’ visitation and is the coat appropriate to Maximilian (2) the son of the people memorialised in the monument.
It is possible that the elder Maximilian quartered the arms of his wife, she being an heiress and he, as her husband taking responsibility for her estates. As heraldry became more formalised such a state would be shown by displaying the wife’s coat of arms in an escutcheon in the centre of the husband’s shield, but we have seen at least one contemporary example (the Grylls monument at Lanreath, circa 1623) where the arms of non-heiresses are impaled with those of their husbands, but the arms of an heiress were quartered with those of hers.
In the first and third quarters Mohun, as previously described, but with crescent moved to go overall. Hyde in the second quarter. “Sable, a lion rampant argent debruised by a bend gules” in the third quarter for Churchill.
The second Maximilian married Elizabeth Chawcott or Chaldicot etc. Her paternal arms were “azure, three arrows erect points downward or.” There is no monument to her or her husband in the church. She was not an heiress so her elder son, the third Maximilian, would have inherited the same arms as used by Maximilian (2), his father.
Maximilian (3) died young. The inheritance passed to his younger brother.
The second son of Maximilian (2) and Elizabeth was Francis. He married Eleanor Sheldon, a niece of Gilbert Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury. The arms of Sheldon – argent, on a chevron gules three shelducks argent; on a canton gules a rose argent – are shown impaled with Mohun on a monument to Francis.
Francis’ had one son, Gilbert Maximilian (1), who inherited Fleet.
Three of Gilbert’s sons by his second wife, Gilbert Maximilian (2), Francis, and Robert, also inherited in turn, each dying without surviving issue.
The last of the Mohuns to hold Fleet was Sarah, the elder daughter of Gilbert Maximilian (1) by his second wife. She married John Gould of Upwey but had no children. Fleet therefore passed into the hands of Sarah’s step-son, George Gould, John’s son by his first marriage.
The nominal representation of the Fleet branch of the Mohun family passed to the Lytes of Lytescary, by way of Elizabeth, daughter of Gilbert Maximilian (1) by his first wife.
Somehow, we’ve got through these notes on the Mohuns of Fleet without mentioning the novel “Moonfleet” by J. Meade Falkner. Falkner, for the purposes of his story, gives the arms of the Mohuns as a “Y”, specifically described in the book as a “cross-pall.” The real device of the Mohuns was, of course, the maunch, generally looking much more like an “M.” It may or may not be meant for the initial letter of the family name. Alternatively, “maunch” sounds close enough to “Mohun” to be an example of canting arms.